Ontario's Domestic Violence Court has specialized processes for the investigation and prosecution of domestic violence cases. Domestic violence cases are often resolved via the early intervention program, known as PARS, Partner Assault Response Service. In these cases, when deemed appropriate, the accused is given the opportunity to participate in PARS, a 12-session program meant to educate and counsel them on domestic violence and relationships.
PARS is aimed at helping participants to control and manage violent, abusive, and controlling behaviors towards their partners. The program seeks to assist the accused by providing opportunities vis-à-vis counseling sessions to examine their beliefs and attitudes towards domestic violence, and to learn non-abusive ways of resolving conflict.
How Do I Get into the Program?
Before the accused’s first scheduled court appearance, the Domestic Violence Crown Attorneys screen the cases. If they find the cases to be of relatively minor assaults, involving a person who has no prior criminal record, the Crown will rule them eligible for these counseling programs. At this time, the Crown will make the accused an offer.
There are varied terms upon which the accused may participate in PARS program. The accused often agree to enter into the PARS program because a deal is made with the Crown with regard to sentencing or ultimate case outcome. Typical deals include the Crown agreeing to ask the trial judge for sentences such things as:
1. Withdrawal (dropping) of the charges
2. Withdrawal of the charges upon the signing of an s. 810 or common law peace bond
3. Staying the charges
4. An absolute discharge
5. A conditional discharge (and probation)
6. A suspended sentence (which results in a conviction and formal criminal record, but allows the defendant to avoid going to jail or being placed on house arrest/a conditional sentence)
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What is the Cost of the PARS or Early Intervention Program?
Participants are expected to contribute to the cost of the service. The cost of this program is varied based upon the ability of the accused to pay.
What Type of Material Does the Program Cover?
Currently, PARs programs are varied. It is important to identify the best program for your particular case.
The following is an example of the Partner Assault Response Services of Toronto PARs program.
The program involves ten module sessions:
If I agree to PARS will I be able to regain contact with my partner or spouse?
In most cases, the Crown will agree to vary the criminal undertaking or bail conditions to allow contact with complainant while the accused attends the 16 individual PARS sessions if the complainant is agreeable to this arrangement.
Is PARS always required in domestic cases? I don't want to have to do PARS.
Absolutely not. It is often possible to negotiate a deal that does not involve enrolling in the formal PARS program. This may include private relationship counseling, alcohol programs, and anger management programs. The benefits of avoiding PARS are obvious, such as:
1. The case can often be withdrawn much sooner (1 – 2 months as opposed to 6 months);
2. The PARS programs are often highly inflexible and strict with regards to dates, timing, missed sessions, and general treatment of the participants;
3. PARS often relates more to assault and relationship issues when in some cases the program relates more closely to a drug or alcohol abuse problem;
4. The participation fee;
5. In signing up for PARS, the accused is required to sign papers that admit to or accept responsibility for what happened – these informal deals do not include formally pleading guilty in court for what happened.
Even if a PARS deal is made, the trial judge has the ultimate say as to what the ultimate sentence will be except in cases where the Crown agrees to withdraw the charges. Whenever an accused has to plead guilty, the sentence is determined by the trial judge, not the Crown. This being said, it is very rare that a judge would give an accused a harsher sentence than what the Crown is looking for. Participation in PARS may not be the best option for every individual facing domestic assault charges. If a viable defense is available for the accused proceeding with a trial may be the better option.